If you were condemned to spend the rest of your life within two city blocks, the place to bunk would be the Inn at the Market in Seattle.
In a small web of sidewalks around this 70-room boutique hotel, you can find great restaurants, cool coffeehouses, good musicians, an international newsstand, a shop that makes cheese, a bakery that makes proper croissants, a top-notch health club and tangy air that makes you want to learn sea chanteys.
From the inn, it's barely half a block down the hill to one of the city's icons, the Pike Place Market, a vast, covered open-air bazaar under a giant red neon sign. Fresh fish lie piled on ice, and bouquets of fresh flowers stretch as bountiful as Van Gogh's fields, and despite the tourists and the neighboring condos, you feel you're in a place still touched by something wild.
Being sentenced to life inside the Inn at the Market wouldn't be bad either. You could while away the days with excellent room service meals, massages and a private yoga instructor. You could sit up on the communal deck hypnotized by white ferries gliding across blue water toward mountains and islands. You could do all this while working on free Wi-Fi.
CHECKING IN: I bypassed the smiling valet/porter at the curb, walked past the fountain in the courtyard and into the inn's lobby. With its flickering fireplace and big chairs, it felt like a living room that just happened to have a reception desk in the corner.
Rooms come with city views (the least expensive) or water views (partial view to deluxe view). There are four two-story townhouse suites.
I'd reserved a water-view room with an additional rollaway bed for $350 a night. The cheerful receptionist had something else in mind.
"We're giving you a complimentary upgrade to a parlor room," she said.
I'm sure this wasn't standard practice, but it couldn't have been an attempt to curry journalistic favor either, since I hadn't mentioned that I work for a newspaper.
ROOMS: Room 414 was a corner suite that overlooked Elliott Bay. The living room had a fold-out sofabed, two armchairs and a chaise longue next to a wall of windows. A desk sat in a corner nook next to more floor-to-ceiling windows.
With either of the sliding glass doors open, you could hear the commercial bustle and the highway hum of the (invisible) Alaskan Way behind the market. With the windows closed, the room was quiet.
In the bedroom, behind the pocket doors, a king-sized Tempur-Pedic bed and black-out drapes made for a great night's sleep. Off the sitting room was a kitchenette that came equipped with a refrigerator, coffeemaker, microwave and sink
BATHROOM: Small, but the supplies were ample. Plenty of big towels, plus Gilbert & Soames toiletries, and best of all, a toothbrush and toothpaste. The shower tub had bars for the disabled. Lights were dimmable.
PERKS & PEEVES: It costs $25 a night to park a car, so I didn't rent one until I was ready to venture out of the city. Downtown is just a short hike up Pine or Pike Streets. I took the express bus from the airport and was downtown in 20 minutes for $1.25.
By 6 a.m. each day, the New York Times and a Seattle paper lay outside my door.
Check-out was noon, so you don't feel rushed, and still leaves time for a stroll over to the Seattle Art Museum or, for $15, a workout at the nearby Seattle Athletic Club.
The inn is in a courtyard building that includes three restaurants and a French housewares boutique. For fresh-squeezed juices or a light meal all day, there was Bacco's. For finer fare—upscale French country—there was Campagne and its less formal partner, Cafe Campagne.
No business center, but the hotel staff will do small Internet tasks—like printing a boarding pass.
ROOM SERVICE: Breakfast is available from 7-11 a.m. at Bacco's. Campagne supplies dinner from 5-10 p.m.
KID FRIENDLY: It's not a kids' hotel (meaning it's quiet), but kids are welcome.
BOTTOM LINE: I love this place. It's cozy without being fussy, elegant without being staid. Everyone on the staff was cheerful and helpful.
Some rooms include walk-in showers and other amenities for disabled guests. A wheelchair is available.
Rates vary according to season and availability. From late May through October, rooms range from $225 to $625. Rest of the year some rooms go for $175. Local room tax is 7 percent. State room tax 8.6 percent. 800-446-4484 or 206-443-3600; www.innatthemarket.com
•For previous stories: chicagotribune.com/sleepingaround. Suggestions? Ctcfirstname.lastname@example.org
Inn at the Market,
86 Pine St.,